She can hear you
If you spend 10 minutes with me, you soon realize I love tech of any kind. Old or new, but in all honesty, old school tech trips my trigger. On the flip side, new tech that has the power to hold my attention long enough to investigate it further, usually wins.
In the last 2 years we have acquired a digital assistant in many forms, Cortana is Microsoft’s newest version of Apple’s Siri. Now with Google, “Hey Google” sounds like Siri, but is more like a Garmin GPS talking to you. Amazon has “Alexa” or “Amazon” for an assistant, but, in all fairness, it is kind of weird calling a device “Amazon”.
With that said, I have tried many attempts with digital assistants, but they all suffer from one constant problem, lack of response data. The voice activated assistant relies upon a data base filled with possible answers to your questions, asking Cortana or Siri certain rouge questions will give you an, “I’m not sure” reply, and that is what kills the idea of having a device assist you, when it doesn’t know the answer.
Amazon has done the research, and has filled the data banks with replies, quotes, jokes, anything you throw at “her”, Alexa can respond accordingly, and that is what intrigued me, enough to the point of purchasing two Amazon Echo Dots, one for the shop, the other for my home. I had no problem setting the device up. The Echo Dot needs you to have a smartphone or tablet however, and without it, and an Amazon account it will not work for you as a standalone device. The device is the size of a hockey puck, it comes in Black or White and has the weight of one as well, it has to stay plugged in with the USB charger, but only uses 9 watts of juice, a touch more than a nightlight.
The Echo Dot will connect to your Wi-Fi, and then you may connect it to any powered speakers or sound system. It has a small internal speaker, but the size keeps it from being used for anything other than an alarm. It will connect over Bluetooth, or you can plug in the 3.5 mm headphone jack to any stereo. I used my Samsung Air Track sound bar; it has Bluetooth, and sounds great. The Dot has 7 radial mounted microphones to hear your voice from any point in the room, and “Alexa” can be set up to hear just your voice, or your whole family. To use the Echo Dot, just call out, “Alexa” and ask any command you like, and she will respond accordingly. Alexa will play any genre of music from Amazon Prime music, Pandora, Spotify, or Tune-in. It never shuts off, but, you can mute the microphone, so she can’t hear you. The lighted ring responds to your voice, in a mix a blue and white, mute the mic, and it turns red, otherwise the lights are off, until you call her by name.
Alexa has the power to play games, ask trivia, and tell jokes. Alexa can get weather updates, news breaks, even set an alarm, set a timer, create a to-do list, she can get traffic updates, control your lights, your door locks, your security cameras, even your furnace and the garden sprinkler. You can add “skills” from a data base of certain skill sets, to further customize your Dot. With the home being connected to the internet now, the fridge can send you a text when you have no milk, the mower will text you when it needs an oil change, and the thermostat can “see” if you’re not home and shut off the heat, space odyssey 2001 has finally come home, only “she” isn’t called Hal.